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Showing posts from December, 2013

Jesus Was a Refugee

(A sermon based on Matthew 2:13-23 for the First Sunday after Christmas)

I have never been a refugee and you probably haven’t either. There have been times for many of us when we “had” to leave home but we did so because we chose to get an education or to take a job or because our parents told us it was time. Oh, there is a sense in which many of us feel a restlessness and rootlessness and feel like we are on a constant quest for home. But the facts remain that we have never been driven from our home or from our hometown or from our homeland because of warfare or famine. We have never been driven away because of our ethnicity or our politics or our religion; we have never been forced out or forced underground because we are a threat to those in power.

Millions of people are refugees, though. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there were at the end of 2012 15.4 million refugees—people who have fled their country for another because of war or persecution—in the world. In…

Heaven Knows

(A sermon based on Luke 2:1-20 for Christmas Eve 2013)

Imagine with me that we are standing outside in a wide open space, perhaps a prairie or a desert. As we look off in the distance, we see the horizon, the place where the sky seems to intersect with the earth. That is not in reality what is happening, of course, but the metaphor of the horizon might prove helpful to us tonight, a night when we talk, with great reverence and wonder, about a night when heaven came into contact with earth—the night when Christ was born.

Imagine with me that we are there that night when heaven comes down to earth. If we can assume that God knows more about reality than we do and that those in heaven know more about reality than those on earth do, what do the events and words of that night show us about the way things really are? Perhaps if we pay close attention we will come to know some of what heaven knows. And if we come to know what heaven knows, it just might change the ways we think about and …

Get Ready: Trust!

(A sermon based on Matthew 1:18-25 for the Fourth Sunday of Advent)

It may be that in reading these few short verses that describe events that occurred over just a few short days, we bear witness to Joseph making the kind of progress that it usually takes a lifetime to make—and that some of us, after many years of living, still have not made.

Joseph was engaged to Mary; engagement was in that day a legal and binding arrangement. While the couple would not consummate the marriage until the wedding took place, they were nonetheless considered legally joined during the engagement period. If the arrangement was to be ended, a divorce was required.

So when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, he understandably assumed that she had been unfaithful to him. Joseph knew what the right thing to do was; his tradition that was derived from his Bible told him that Mary was to be publicly divorced and his Bible told him that she could under certain circumstances be stoned. Joseph was a righteo…

Get Ready: Accept!

(A sermon based on Matthew 11:2-6 for the 3rd Sunday of Advent)

Every year during Advent, during these weeks leading up to December 25, we hear a good bit of talk about the need to keep Christ in Christmas. For some, that means saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”; for others, it means writing “Merry Christmas” rather than “Merry Xmas”; for still others, it means having Christian displays on government property; for a few radical folks, it means really focusing on Jesus and downplaying the commercial aspects of the season.

As for me, I’m comfortable saying both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”; after all, I am a Christian who respects the fact that the holy days of other faiths occur at this time of year. As for me, I am more interested in protecting the rights of individuals and of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other institutions to be able to display the symbols of their particular faith than I am of placing such displays on property that belong…

Get Ready: Watch!

(A sermon based on Matthew 24:36-44 for the First Sunday in Advent)

We have arrived at the first Sunday of our new year—the first Sunday of Advent! Advent is about the arrival or coming of Jesus and, as such, it has at least three components. First, we anticipate the celebration of the coming of Jesus our world two millennia ago. Second, we anticipate his coming in power in the fullness of time. Third, we anticipate his coming to us right here and now in whatever new and unexpected ways he chooses to come.

Let’s get a few important things said right up front.

First, Advent is not about prediction; it is about preparation. People who predict when Jesus will return are false prophets and people who listen to them are fools. Date-setters are looking for a following and followers of date-setters are looking for a way out of this world; both are, at best, misguided.

Second, Advent is not about paranoia; it is about anticipation. We are not to look for reasons to feel persecuted;…